Thu, Dec

Feeding the Beast: City Hall’s Voracious Appetite for Your Money

LA WATCHDOG - The ‘Argument in Favor’ of increasing our sales tax to a job-crippling 9.5% once again demonstrates the self serving nature of our City leaders, the campaign funding union leadership, and their cronies that occupy City Hall.
This $215 million increase in our taxes will be used to fund a portion of next year’s $300 million escalation in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions for the City’s 32,000 city employees, who incidentally, represent less than one half of 1% of the City’s population since an estimated 50% do not even live within the City.
But the co-authors of the ‘Argument in Favor’ of this permanent half cent increase in the already regressive sales tax, Police Chief Charlie Beck and Maria Elena Durazo, the Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, do not address labor, pension, or budget reform, but rather resort to scare tactics, threatening our basic public safety.
They also claim that the City has made significant strides in reforming the City’s workforce and pension plans.  
But that is not the case.
The Mayor and his cronies on the City Council conveniently fail to tell us about the billions that it will cost the already severely underfunded civilian pension plan and DWP Ratepayers to reduce the City’s General Fund workforce by 5,000 positions, that salary increases of 35% during the Villaraigosa reign dwarf employees’ increased pension contributions, and that the new pension tier for civilian employees results in penny ante savings of about 1% of the $1.3 billion pension contribution in 2017.
Beck and Durazo also claim that this increase in the sales tax will cost the average Los Angeles less than a dime a day.  
But it appears that they are mathematically challenged as the average revenue per Angelino is 15.5¢ a day, or $57 a year.
To put this 15.5¢ in the proper perspective, it would raise over $2 billion for the State of California and $17 billion for every American. 
That is not chump change.
Remember how the California Teachers Association forced Governor Jerry Brown to lower the temporary half cent increase in the sales tax in Proposition 30 to a temporary quarter cent increase because of the CTA’s concern about its regressive nature and disproportionate impact on lower income families.  
The March 5 election is 74 days away, and over the next 10 weeks we will be able to get a better understanding of the City’s finances including the increases in the budgets of the fire and police departments over the last few years, and the views of the 59 candidates for Mayor, Controller, City Attorney, and City Council on the sales tax increase and how they intend to balance the budget, fix our streets and infrastructure, and fully fund our pensions.
The Argument in Favor of permanently increasing our sales to 9.5%, one of the highest in the nation, was signed by Police Chief Charlie Beck, Fire Chief Brian Cummings, Maria Elena Durazo, Rick Tuttle, a former City Controller, Council Members Bill Rosendahl and Joe Buscaino, Andre Quintero, a Neighborhood Prosecutor, Frank Lima, the President of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles, and Richard Close, the President of the Sherman Oaks Home Owners Association.
But before reading Argument in Favor, what is the most common characteristic of the signers of this argument?  
Would it be that they will all benefit personally by the passage of this massive increase our sales tax?
The Argument in Favor of Increasing our Sales Tax to 9.5%
Vote Yes on Proposition A: the Safe Neighbors and Vital City Services Protection Measure.
Over the last five years, Sacramento has taken over one billion dollars from the City of Los Angeles – money that goes toward vital City services, including fire, police and 911 emergency services.  In addition, money has been taken that would maintain youth gang prevention and after school programs, graffiti removal, and fix potholes and sidewalks.  
Despite a significant reduction in the City’s workforce and reforming the pension system, Los Angeles faces a budget deficit of more than $200 million that further threatens our most essential services.  Additional cuts to the fire, police, and paramedic services are not an option if we want to maintain the current level of protection for neighborhoods and families.
Proposition A will help restore a severely understaffed fire department, help maintain police, and paramedic staffing levels and ensure fast and erective 911 response services to make sure residents receive quality emergency medical care and get to a hospital quickly.  Without Proposition A‘s additional revenue, a minimum of 500 officers that patrol our neighborhoods will be laid off and our historically low crime rates may be in danger.
Proposition A also ensures that everyone pays their fair share, including businesses and the millions of tourists and people from nearby cities who visit Los Angeles every year to shop, eat and attend events.  Proposition A will cost the average Los Angeles resident less than 10 cents a day, and by law the tax cannot be applied to food and medicine.
Proposition A requires independent audits, public review of expenditures and most importantly, these funds cannot be taken away by the state and will only be used to maintain vital City of Los Angeles services.
We urge you to protect our firefighters, police officers, paramedics and vital City services – Vote YES on Proposition A.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee,  the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: [email protected])
Vol 10 Issue 102
Pub: Dec 21, 2012